While Finland faces no immediate military threat, the country is not naïve, says Jussi Niinistö, the defence minister to business daily Dagens Industri. With military activity increasing in the Baltic region in recent years, Finland is increasing the speed with which it can mobilise its forces. The country is also planning to invest billions in new fighter jets and warships in the coming years.
Finland has sent requests for information regarding the replacement of Hornet aircraft to Britain, France, Sweden and the United States, and Saab’s Anders Garberg is doing all he can to ensure Finland selects the Gripen.
Talking to Dagens Industri, he assesses Saab’s chances of winning the tender as good; the Gripen is the most modern fighter among the competitors, it has lower operational costs and is made for Nordic conditions. Additionally, Saab hopes to win the contract by offering jobs in Finland.
The European Court of Justice has ruled that Sweden cannot force telecoms operators and Internet service providers to routinely store data on what their customers do online or whom they call.
Operators are ecstatic; the same cannot be said of Anders Ygeman, the home affairs minister, who is concerned over the ruling.
The government has vetoed plans for a wind farm with up to 700 turbines in the Bay of Hanö, saying the area is a strategically important practice area for the Armed Forces.
Blekinge Offshore, which has invested some SKr 50 billion in the project, is “extremely surprised and disappointed that a Social Democratic and Green Party government has made this decision”.
The government has proposed that firms with up to 50 employees and no more than SKr 80 million in turnover should be granted tax relief on employee stock options. The plans are being sharply criticised by entrepreneurs and investors.
“This will impede us in our hunt for talent. For example, if you want the world’s best designers, you have to compete with Google, Facebook and the like, and they offer stock options,” says Jacob De Geer, CEO of iZettle.
“I really don’t understand why a Social Democratic government, which says that it wants to build up a knowledge-based society, makes such idiotic rules. They are punishing companies that want to share their growth with their employees,” says Hans Otterling, a partner at Northzone.
A number of independent sources have informed Svenska Dagbladet that Ericsson is suspected of having made a number of payments via intermediaries to top executives at one of the company’s biggest customers, South African operator MTN. Ericsson is currently under investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Ericsson spokesman Johannes Arvidson Persson tells SvD: “We cannot go into detail about the questions we have received from the US authorities and we can neither confirm nor deny individual countries or regions. We have previously said that the questions are related to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act”.
In turn, MTN has told SvD that it is not aware of any illegal or unauthorised transactions between the companies, nor is it aware of any unauthorised exchanges or transactions between employees of MTN and Ericsson.
A new report from Business Sweden states that action is needed to attract foreign investment to Sweden after Brexit. The report writes that Sweden is too small and too peripheral a country to automatically win foreign investment. Ann Linde, minister for EU and trade, says, “We need to work harder than other countries need to.”
The main proposal is to increase earmarked investment to sectors in which Sweden has a competitive edge, including the vehicle industry, IT and telecoms and the pharmaceutical industry.
Ann Linde says other countries have already started working aggressively to persuade companies to move there. “In order to be part of the game we need to know the areas in which we have a chance. The report specifies this so now we do not need to spend energy investing in other areas,” she says.
Negotiations are heating up in Brussels and Strasbourg over the EU’s most important tool for lowering emissions of carbon dioxide, emissions trading. Today the parliament will make a decision on the issue. Around 13,000 industries will be affected and together could be forced to pay billions of euros more per year for their emissions up until 2030.
However there are widely diverging views and Jytte Guteland (S), who sits in the environmental committee, says, “Everyone was nervous about how we would bring about a solution. It was tough but it ended with an agreement.”
On Monday the Swedish government raised its ambitions saying that fewer industries should be able to avoid paying for their emissions and that more emission rights would be annulled. However Centre Party MEP Fredrick Federley has attacked the government for raising its ambitions only six days before a decision is to be made, saying it is almost impossible to change the position of members at such short notice.
The federal prosecution authority in Brazil has accused ex-president Liz Ignácio “Lula” da Silva of a number of crimes including influence trafficking, money laundering and organised crime between 2013 and 2015. The authority claims the improprieties led the Brazilian government to choose to purchase 36 JAS Gripen planes from Saab.
Accusations have also been made against Lula’s son, Luiz Cláudio Lula da Silva, and the Brazilian lobbyist Mauro Marcondes and engineer Cristina Mautoni who together own the lobbying firm M&M. Former president Lula is said to have influenced the government to the advantage of companies including Saab.
Brazilian newspaper O Globo reports that the prosecutors wrote that the lobbyists received over 2.5 million reais (around 7.5 million kronor), which was then transferred to Lula da Silva. They claim that Saab gave 1.84 million euros to M&M and write there is a great deal of evidence to support the accusation. “There is an intensive exchange of emails between employees of M&M and Lula Institute which aim to facilitate a meeting between Lula and the future Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven.”
Saab denies participating in improprieties.
The number of people registered unemployed fell in November to 364,000, a drop of 10,000 compared to November last year. That means unemployment has fallen by 0.2% to 7.6%, according to the Swedish Public Employment Agency’s (Arbetsförmedlingen) monthly figures. For those born in Sweden unemployment is lower than it has been for a long time, at 4.2%.
However DN reports that among those born outside of Sweden, in particular countries outside of the EU, almost a quarter are unemployed. Annika Sundén, head analyst from the agency, says, “If you do not have an upper secondary school education it is difficult to get onto the labour market. Around half of new arrivals do not have an upper secondary school education, many also lack a primary education.” Therefore education is a decisive factor for new arrivals.
The Swedish government is doing too little to stop international tax havens for companies, according to Oxfam, one of the world’s largest aid organisations. Oxfam wants to see Sweden working more actively with Country-by-Country Reporting, CBCR, which forces multinational companies to account for sales, profits and tax according to the countries they are operating in. There is a proposal to enforce this at EU level, however, Sweden has not supported it, says Esme Bekout from Oxfam.
Finance minister Magdalena Andersson points out that international work against tax havens has made huge progress. However it is also about compromise and not pushing so far that countries stop cooperating.